Agricultural Policy Processes and the Youth in Malawi
32 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2014
Date Written: March 28, 2014
Evidence exists which shows growing disillusionment with and disinterest in agricultural-based livelihoods among the youth in Africa south of the Sahara. This disillusionment raises concerns for the future of agriculture for the developing world as it can lead to higher rural urban migration, unemployment and lowered agricultural productivity. The engagement of youth in agricultural policy formulation processes is seen as one avenue for motivating youth engagement in agriculture. This research seeks to develop a contextual understanding of the level of engagement of youth in agriculture thus providing evidence which can be used to stimulate youth involvement in the sector. Using a mixed-methods approach, this study analyzes the determinants of the engagement by southern African youth in agricultural policy processes using Malawi as a case study. Factor analytic results show that four interlinked latent factors determine youth engagement in agricultural policy processes: political patronage, availability of social amenities, access to information and educational services, and physical accessibility of the community. Results of a social network analysis demonstrate that government departments at the local level that are mandated to work on youth issues are the main hubs of information for youth in agriculture, with the Ministry of Agriculture playing a secondary role. Furthermore, the results show that youth in agriculture have little or no direct interactions with each other; and where interactions do exist, they are weak. Therefore, youth remain on the periphery of agricultural policymaking networks, and their role in shaping agricultural policy dialogues is negligible. This is attributable not only to lack of a deliberate government policy to include the youth but also lack of a unified youth platform. Conclusions are that in southern Africa the onus is on the youth to ensure that they are effectively engaged in agricultural policy dialogue. The creation of unified youth platforms for engaging with agricultural policymakers is essential for improving youth engagement in the policy process. Without such platforms, the voice of the youth on agricultural policy issues will remain barely audible among the cacophony of voices of other agricultural stakeholders.
Keywords: youth participation, factor analytic approach, policy process, Africa, Africa south of Sahara, East Africa, Malawi
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